Five Tips for Traveling With Photo and Video Gear

I've got a big European photo expedition planned this summer, but I'm not worried about being in the elements 4,000 miles from home with my gear. It's the process of getting there with my equipment intact that always worries me. This great video offers some tips to ensure you not only get where you're going with everything in tow, but you also get the shots you want.

In this video, Peter McKinnon shares five tips for photo and video work when traveling. One of the most overlooked points is choosing the correct side of the plane to sit on. Using a tool like Flight Radar 24, you can see the exact route your flight will take and use it to grab the correct window seat. From there, you can then hop over to Seat Guru to figure out exactly where the best seat to take pictures from is. On another token, always pack spares of everything, especially memory cards and batteries. Lastly, be sure to check your airline's carry-on regulations; I don't know about you, but I absolutely refuse to check fragile photo gear. 

Do you have any tips for traveling with gear or shooting on a trip? Share them in the comments! 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

Log in or register to post comments

1. Do we really need to have all the rap artist hand gestures to learn something about photography?
2. How about getting to the point instead of the longer than necessary preamble?

Hm, not too fond of some things he says.
1) Why use so many different folders...? That's what the metadata and your catalogue is for. Just filter for the camera or the type (video or photo). Boom. Less hassle.
2) Sunrise vs. sunset: It usually depends in which direction you are shooting and what you want to get in the shot. I prefer sunrise though because even if you have to get up really early sometimes there will be almost no people that ruin your shot or your timelapse by walking through the frame, stoping and starring at the camera...

I agree about getting there early to avoid too many people but he is right about the light being better at sunset. There are a couple of reasons for this, the heat of the day causes evaporation which fills the air with vapor, and in built up areas there is a greater level of man made pollution in the air at the and of the day. Of course this depends on the image you're trying to make. In Australia, a lot of our mountainous landscapes are covered in Eucalyptus trees which sweat quite a thick vapor, adding a blue mist to afternoon shots (and giving the Blue Mountains their name) so morning shots are preferable if you want a really clean image with a really long line of sight.
Alex this could be an interesting idea for a post using your science brain.

Peter (who has been a student of mine and whose work I love) has some good tips.

I've worked in 40 countries, so I too have some advice. Here's a free chapter from my book Impactful Travel Photographer. Go download and enjoy!

Incidentally, I agree with the above comment about folders. Put an entire shoot into one folder and use collections in lightroom to organize further within that. You can slice and dice any way you like using EXIF data. Lightroom really is the best thing to use for this.

If you're interested: My free Lightroom educational videos here:

You're going to Europe too this year?

I am!

Can't watch that. What is up with these theatrical vloggers?

I totally agree about the backpack that opens ONLY from the protected side like the Lowepro Flipside. It's convenient to carry because it's a backpack, and it's actually convenient to access gear because if you have the waist strap attached, you just slip your arms out, spin the bag around to the front, and grab your gear. Not having to worry about pickpockets is a nice reassurance when traveling.

Here are a few tips I have from the tiny amount of travel-for-shooting experience I have:

1. If you HAVE to check gear, pack all your stuff then take a picture of how it's packed along with a full list of everything packed in there, and put a printout of all of that on top of the checked bag. If TSA/customs need to do a search, they'll know exactly how to put everything back in properly.

2. Forget TSA-approved locks. They'll probably just get cut off (or violently torn off by the conveyor system), and then you've wasted $20 on locks and won't have a way to secure your luggage on the way home. Instead, buy a bunch of heavy duty zip ties and pack extras in your checked luggage (and make sure the TSA knows there are extras packed). If they need to do a search, they'll just cut the cheap ties. Sure, they're not as secure as metal locks, but honestly the only reason you need to secure luggage in the first place is so latches don't pop open on their way down the conveyor belt. Zip ties do the job. If you swear by TSA locks, then carry extras because sooner or later they will be cut off for a search.

3. The newest thing to worry about when traveling is flying with batteries. Check the current FAA regulations as well as your airline's regulations about what batteries are allowed or not allowed, and how they should be stored during travel (carry-on vs checked, installed vs stored with terminals protected). You don't want to arrive at your shoot to realize that the TSA confiscated your battery because it had exposed terminals.

Good luck with that ... I worked for like 6 month re wrapping TSA opened bags in a big international airport in USA .... they never never put things back as they were. I even saw them throwing big flat screen tvs, bags thrown into the air to give way the next bag and hearing the sound of broken glass inside the bag . So if you are taking expensive gear PLEASE use a hard shell case with a lot of protective foam if you are cheking in the bag otherwise take it with you into the cabin

"but honestly the only reason you need to secure luggage in the first place is so latches don't pop open on their way down the conveyor belt" - you must fly to very safe locations :-)
I travel quite a bit to shoot and last time I flew into Cambodia, every bag coming down the carousel had been opened, the clothes thrown all over the conveyor, and anything of value missing. The bag that I had used had TSA locks built in but someone had taken to the side of the zips with a knife to get in. There was a police officer waiting at the end of the baggage claim area to take everyone's names and hand out cards so we could "call him if we thought anything was missing". If you had been foolish enough to check anything of value on that flight it would have been gone.

Even if I risk to get negative feedback:
Maybe you should also be concerned how to get your equipment back home to the USA.

I guess there is no guarantee that current rules [ will not be extended to other countries (and having valuable equipment in checked-in luggage is not the best idea, imho)

One Body, two lenses and a Lens Flipper